A harmonic scalpel is a medical device used in surgical procedures and is an alternative to steel scalpels. It uses ultrasonic technology to cut tissue while sealing its edges. The system usually consists of a hand-held ultrasonic transducer, a generator, a manual switch, a pedal, and a scalpel used as a cutting tool.
During the procedure, the scalpel vibrates in the 55,500 Hz range while cutting through the tissue while hemostasis through protein denaturation, thereby sealing it. Medical procedures that can be performed with the harmonic scalpel handpiece include thyroidectomy, lung biopsy, laparoscopic cystectomy, tonsillectomy, and gynecological cancer. Many plastic surgeons also find it a better tool for plastic surgery procedures such as face lift, breast reduction, breast augmentation or tummy tuck.
Harmonic scalpels are often a welcome addition to the range of systems available to surgeons when addressing different medical conditions in their patients. It can provide surgeons with greater cutting accuracy; it also allows surgeons to cut through thicker tissue more efficiently. Since the system emits less smoke when operating, it reduces his or her visibility problems. Although the harmonic scalpel handpiece does not move as easily as the instruments used for coagulation in electrocoagulation, there are fewer surgical instrument changes, simplifying the procedure.
Patients undergoing surgery with a harmonic scalpel typically do not experience the swelling, bleeding, and abrasions that occur with traditional scalpels. Vessels are also sealed at temperatures below those required for electrosurgery and laser surgery, thereby reducing damage to the patient's lateral thermal tissue and charring and extreme drying of the vessels. This usually shortens surgery time and recovery time. Often, patients are able to resume their normal activities more quickly, effectively reducing lost productivity and income opportunities that may result from surgery.
The key to successfully performing any surgery with a harmonic scalpel is often the surgeon's knowledge and experience. Surgeons often require extensive training and mastery of this technique on their own initiative. They can attend lectures and demonstrations on the use of the harmonic scalpel. Some of these learning sessions, as well as the actual exposure of harmonic scalpels, are sponsored by their manufacturers.